Man acquitted of rape because of corroboration rule

A man who allegedly raped a teenage girl in woodland in Fife has been cleared because of legal rules about corroboration.

A jury returned a guilty verdict on a charge against Cailan Duchain of sexually assaulting the 17-year-old near Burntisland in 2019.

However, a jury at the High Court in Livingston returned not proven verdicts on another charge involving the same girl and two others involving a 15-year-old.

Judge Thomas Hughes freed the 24-year-old under the Moorov doctrine – a legal mechanism which allows for acquittal if corroboration cannot be proven.

It meant Mr Duchain, of Alcester, Warwickshire, was acquitted on all four counts.

He had denied eight sexual offences against the two girls, including the four allegations of rape.

The Crown later withdrew four of the charges.

Mr Duchain had lodged special defences to the rape charges at the High Court in Livingston, claiming that both girls had consented to having sex with him.

He had also been accused of attacking the 17-year-old at her home shortly after the claimed initial assault.

He was also alleged to have raped the 15-year-old in woodland and at a hotel in Dumfries in 2020.

The jury found all three of those allegations to be not proven.

The Moorov doctrine

Under Scots law, prosecutors can group two or more offences, each with a single witness, together in order to show jurors that the accused displays a pattern of behaviour.

It is most commonly used in sexual offence hearings, based on a case from 1930.

That involved Glasgow draper Samuel Moorov, who was accused of seven assaults and nine indecent assaults against female employees over a seven-year period.

When one of his employees reported her ordeal to the police, a further 18 women came forward to report similar assaults.

As most of these cases had only a single witness, the prosecution grouped their experiences together to create the “Moorov doctrine”.

It was used to corroborate the evidence of victims in cases that were “similar in "time, character and circumstance”.

Based on that pattern of behaviour, Moorov was convicted of four indecent assaults.

If a pattern cannot be established by a majority verdict, the accused can be acquitted as no repeat behaviour has been established.

'No corroboration'

Under the doctrine, which applies in rape cases involving more than one alleged victim, juries must return verdicts finding an accused guilty of a similar offence against at least one other complainer.

Lord Hughes told jurors that because they were prepared to convict Mr Duchain on one charge, but not the other three, he would have to change that verdict to not proven.

“You were prepared to convict on charge two and not on any other charge. As a result of that there can be no corroboration on any of that," he said.

“It looks quite clear from your decision that you do not have the cross check that the Crown had to establish, so there will be acquittals in respect of all of the charges in this case.”

He told Mr Duchain; “You are free to go”.